Hacking practices and software development : a social worlds annalysis of ICT innovation and the role of free/libre open source software
Through use of social worlds theory and qualitative research methods, this thesis explores hackers’ practices and their relationships with the computing world and the wider society from a socio-technical perspective. The hacker social world comprises actors from diverse social-technical backgrounds who share a constellation of im/material practices, namely open source practices (OSPs). Through engaging with these collective practices, actors and actants communicate, negotiate, and shape each other’s identities, practices and understandings of the innovation structure and system in various aspects. In examining the diverse articulations and performances in which hacker culture and hacker identity are both reflected and constructed, the thesis tries to contextualise and deconstruct the ICT architecture we take for granted, as well as the innovations made possible by this architecture.
The major findings of my research are: 1) As a community of open source practices, the FLOSS social world allows diverse actors to engage in the innovation process and therefore fosters a greater innovation resources than other relatively conventional software engineering models. 2) The strategic collaboration between the public (i.e. the free software community) and the private (i.e. information technologies corporations) sectors symbolises a pattern of hybrid innovation that entails complex communications and networks, though stabilizing these can be problematic. 3) Tacit knowledge anchored in everyday experiences is particularly valued in a community-based innovation system where social networking and information sharing are extensive. 4) The development of FLOSS democratises software innovation process and allows lay people to develop their understanding and knowledge of a shared problem/issue, especially through the web, to challenge established views on the issue.